How do you transport a dog safely? 12 Pointer Checklist

CitizenShipper CitizenShipper · Updated January 30, 2024

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In the US, millions of animals are transported every year. Only several dozens fall victim to accidents or negligence annually. A tiny percentage, to be sure, but still a cause for concern for pet owners. When making travel arrangements for your pup, you’ll be trying to take everything into account. If booking a transporter, how can you be sure that the dog will arrive safe and sound? How do you transport a dog safely on your own if you can’t?

These types of questions are pretty common, actually. In this article, we’ll try to answer some of them and provide statistics to back up those answers.

Facts and figures on pet transportation

Facts and figures on pet transportation

According to recent surveys, more than two-thirds of American households own one or more pets. That’s nearly 90 million families, half of which transport their pets by car at least once per month. And that doesn’t come cheaply — just last year, dog owners have spent nearly a hundred billion dollars on their precious furballs. 

But regarding transportation specifically, what are all these people paying for? What do their priorities look like? Unsurprisingly, the animal’s wellbeing is what they care about the most. They’re trying to make sure the folks handling their pets are reliable and competent. They just want their dogs brought back to them in one piece and not too stressed out!

And yet, this is often easier said than done. The responsibility for the pet’s health and safety, ultimately, is shared between the transporter and the owner. To ensure your dog stays safe, you’ll need to follow the following guidelines.

Things to consider when transporting a dog

1. Travel fitness

Different modes of transportation have different health standards in place. For a dog to be allowed to travel, it needs to be 8 weeks or older, since younger puppies are very fragile. Conversely, dogs beyond a certain age may find the journey too difficult. Your local vet should be able to provide the specifics and issue a certificate of veterinary inspection (CVI) if your dog is ready to get on the road.

2. Preparation

Before embarking on a long-distance drive with pets, it’s best to take them on a short test-drive first. Make sure they can handle a trip to the store before going coast-to-coast. You’ll also need some container-training if your pup isn’t used to whiling away the hours inside carrier crates.

3. Container types

Speaking of containers, you’ll want to pick out the one that’s just right. As a rough guideline, your dog should be able to comfortably stand up, turn around, and sit down inside the carrier. On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much room — have the excess space inside the container is padded out using blankets or towels. Flexible materials are OK, but it’s best if the container’s basic structure is rigid enough to withstand impact. And remember, the dog’s place is inside the container — not on your lap while you’re driving.

4. Temperatures in transit

Whether transporting a dog by car or plane, temperatures should be your number one concern. In warm weather, dogs in enclosed spaces are at an elevated risk of heatstroke. Ideally, the vehicle you’re using would be climatized 100% of the time, but that isn’t always the case. Proper airflow is a lifesaver in these situations, as is access to plenty of fresh drinking water.

5. Hydration and nutrition

This one’s a no-brainer, but you’ll need to make sure your dog doesn’t grow hungry or thirsty en route. Even on shorter trips, water is particularly important—ensure the bowl is refilled regularly. And to be on the safe side, most experts recommend that the dog isn’t fed 4-6 hours before the trip.

6. Stress and sedation

And last but not least, you should also consider your dog’s stress levels. Some pets struggle with separation anxiety apart from their owners, while others don’t handle travel well. If your pup seems either listless or unusually aggressive, it might be suffering from stress. Ask your veterinarian for advice — they may suggest relaxation techniques or additional training. But whatever you do, please don’t try sedating the dog on your own!

While the dog is en route, you’ll also need to pay attention to your mental state. We know it’s stressful to organize all this, but try not to let it get to you too much. If you put yourself emotionally in a good place, you’ll be better equipped to help your dog deal with any problems that may come up.

Final Checklist

Whether driving or flying with your dog, we hope you’ll find a way to enjoy it. Given proper preparation, traveling with pets can truly be one of life’s greatest little pleasures. And if a busy schedule prevents you from sharing the journey, you can always book a professional transporter and lighten the load.

Now that you know how to safely transport a dog, all that remains is to keep you on your toes while packing. Here’s a quick-and-dirty last-minute checklist!

  1. Carrier crate
  2. Collar, leash, harness
  3. Water bottles (filled)
  4. Basic food supplies 
  5. Pup’s favorite treat
  6. Pup’s favorite blanket or toy
  7. Required medication, if any
  8. Vaccine records and health certificate
  9. Pet passport, if any
  10. Pet first aid kit
  11. Pet grooming kit
  12. Waste bags and wet wipes

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